Q: "Jill, I've read your last few columns with great interest. I like your "clipless" method, cutting only the coupons we need, so I save the whole coupon insert every week now. I also signed up with a grocery list service that does a great job of matching coupons to the sales at the big supermarket in my town. I have a question, though, about how to do this at other stores. We have a smaller grocer in town that has great sales, and I'd like to cut only the coupons I need and use them on sales here, too. How do I do that?"
A: Web sites that match coupons to sales help coupon shoppers save time and money! There's another great tool in any Internet-savvy coupon shopper's arsenal: the coupon lookup database. These free, web-based databases catalog every current coupon, whether it ran in a newspaper insert or is available online. These are also great tools for matching coupons to sales at any store.
There's a family-owned grocery store in my town that often has good sales. The grocery list matchup sites that track sales at larger chains don't offer shopping lists for this small store. But, it's still easy to match coupons to its sales using a coupon lookup database.
If I open the smaller store's flyer and notice that a certain brand of bread is on sale for 89 cents, I want to see if there are coupons available for the bread. Finding them is as easy as opening the coupon lookup site in my web browser and typing the name of the product. I can type "Brownberry," "Sara Lee" or just "bread," and the lookup database immediately returns a list of every available coupon. In this case, the database listed a 55-cent coupon for the bread in my 2/21 RP insert. I pulled the Feb. 21 RedPlum coupon insert from my file, cut the bread coupon and added it to my pile of coupons to take to that store.
There's a free coupon lookup on my web site, SuperCouponing.com, which you can use to match your coupons to sales at any store.
Q: "I have been a coupon clipper for many years and it's hard to think of letting go of my big coupon binder. I just get so much comfort from knowing if I see something I wasn't planning on buying, I have that coupon with me! How do you deal with spotting an unexpected deal at an in-store sale or clearance?"
A: I've never been much of an impulse buyer. Once I plan a shopping trip, I tend to stick pretty tightly to my list. Now and then, I may see an item on clearance and think, "I bet I have a coupon for that somewhere." But I'm willing to let these occasional deals go in favor of not spending hours and hours every week cutting and organizing all of my coupons. Great deals come around all the time. I tend to look at the bigger picture: the time I save, long-term, by not cutting and carrying every coupon "just in case" I might spot some air freshener on clearance. My weekly grocery bills for my family of five are consistently $40 to $60 a week, post-coupon. I'm pretty content with the balance I've achieved on time spent couponing and the results I enjoy at the register.
With regard to those impulse or clearance buys, check to see what your store's coupon policy says with regard to redeeming coupons after the fact. One of my local stores allows shoppers to redeem a coupon up to 30 days after a sale by bringing in a receipt. At this store, if I see something great that I'm not carrying a coupon for, it's not a problem to simply buy the item and then bring the coupon in on my next visit to receive reimbursement.
Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her web site, www.jillcataldo.com. E-mail your own couponing victories and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.